How Your Body Heals After Smoking

What happens to your body once you stop smoking? | 4 min read

Deciding to stop smoking is challenging for most tobacco users as tobacco cravings or urges to smoke can be powerful. Around three days after quitting, tobacco users usually experience moodiness, irritability, severe headaches, and cravings as the body readjust.

What is the timeline for quitting smoking?

The benefits of quitting smoking may begin immediately, and you may feel normal within a few years. The timeline for quitting smoking is as follows:

Two days after quitting – your heart rate and blood carbon monoxide drop

Cigarettes raise your blood pressure and increase your heart rate. Your heart rate will drop to normal levels within 20 minutes of your last cigarette. Within eight to twelve hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood decreases, and your blood oxygen increases; your ability to smell and taste improves in two days.

Two weeks to three months after quitting – your risk of heart attack drops. 

Improved circulation, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and better oxygen levels and lung function reduce your risk of a heart attack.

One to nine months after quitting – you’ll feel less short of breath and cough less. 

Coughing, shortness of breath, and sinus congestion will decrease. You’ll feel more energetic overall.

One year after quitting – your risk of heart disease will be cut in half. 

Smoking significantly increases your risk of heart disease.

Five years after quitting – your risk of stroke decreases. 

Depending on how much and how long you smoked and your overall health, your risk of stroke will be the same as someone who’s never smoked within 5 to 15 years of quitting.

Ten years after quitting – your risk of lung cancer drops to that of someone who has never smoked. 

Your risk of dying from lung cancer will be that of a person who has never smoked. Your risk of developing other cancers decreases significantly.

Fifteen years after quitting – your risk of heart disease is the same as someone who has never smoked. 

After you quit, you’ll have lower cholesterol, thinner blood (which reduces your risk of blood clots), and lower blood pressure.

What are the side effects of quitting smoking?

Many aspects of the body are affected by smoking, including the heart, hormones, metabolism, and brain functioning. It is important to understand what you may experience when you stop smoking. Talking to your doctor about a personalised plan to stop smoking can help you manage side effects. 

Headaches and nausea

Smoking affects every system in your body. Headaches, nausea, and other physical symptoms are expected as the nicotine leaves your body.

Tingling in hands and feet

As your circulation improves, you may feel tingling in your hands and feet.

Coughing and sore throat

You may have a cough and a sore throat as your lungs clear out the mucus and other debris smoking creates.

Increased appetite and associated weight gain

The boost in energy you experience when you quit smoking increases your appetite. Some people also eat more because they substitute cigarettes with food to cope with the “hand to mouth” habit. 

Intense cravings for nicotine

It is expected that your body will crave nicotine, as it depends on it while you’re a smoker—however, cravings peak between the two- and four-week mark.

Irritability, frustration, and anger

You’re making a significant change — your mind and body need to adjust to giving up something you’ve grown dependent on; this often causes irritability and anger.

Book a virtual consultation to talk to your doctor.


Nicotine affects the small bowel and colon. When you take the nicotine away, you may experience constipation as your body adjusts to going without it.

Anxiety, depression, and insomnia

Smokers have an increased risk of depression and anxiety, though this is unclear. You may smoke to feel better. When you quit smoking, you may feel more anxious and depressed. Insomnia is also common.

Is a relapse healthy?

When you resume smoking after weeks, months, or years of abstinence, it is referred to as a relapse. It is usually the result of a massive trigger or an unexpected event and can result in increased: health problems, negative feelings, depression, self-condemnation, and feelings of hopelessness.


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